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Paleoworld-101

Fossil Hunting Holiday in Victoria, Australia (Dec 2015 - Jan 2016)

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Paleoworld-101

Hello TFF!

This trip report showcases my finds from a recent fossil hunting trip I made to the Australian state of Victoria. The plan was to drive the Great Ocean Road (a famous scenic drive down here in Oz) with my family and stop at as many fossil sites that were nearby or along the way as possible. My goal was to find my first Australian vertebrate fossils (with a focus on shark teeth), as despite being a collector for coming on 10 years now I’ve always been hampered when it comes to finding vertebrates in Australia due to never really being able to venture far from Sydney (where vertebrates are few and far between, and in almost all cases illegal to collect). So I did my research into where might be ideal for collecting in Victoria and by early morning on Christmas day I was off! All up the drive to Melbourne from Sydney was about 8-9 hours. The remainder of Christmas day was spent exploring the CBD of Melbourne (which I had never visited before) and then on Boxing Day I went to the Melbourne Museum which featured some great fossil and zoology galleries. After Melbourne, early on the morning of December 27th, my family and I set off for the first fossil site on my list over on the other side of the state.

Fossil Collecting Day 1 - 27/12/15 – Coastline North of Portland Harbour and Allestree Beach

We arrived at the town of Portland by about 9:30am, just in time for low tide, and straight away I was dropped off at a beach I had selected to begin my search for fossils (a few kilometres north of Portland harbour). The coastal cliffs here are comprised of the Whalers Bluff Formation and date to the mid Pliocene epoch (about 4 million years old). Straight away I observed lots of shell fragments protruding from the sandy limestone cliff. Many of the fallen rocks lying on the foreshore were also filled with invertebrate fragments, including bryozoans, gastropods, oysters, echinoids and bivalves. I managed to safely extract a couple of complete heart urchins (Lovenia) from the cliff due to the soft nature of the rocks. After 3 hours or so of searching I was picked up by my family, taking with me a small bag full of shelly bits and a couple of larger rocks with various invertebrate fossils in them. I also collected a small cetacean bone fragment that was lying on the shore, which was my first Australian vertebrate fossil find (quite an anti-climactic one though!).

We then drove to another beach that was directly adjacent to Portland township, just north of the harbour, and observed a continuation of the Whalers Bluff cliff exposure that I was fossicking from earlier. The same shells were found here as well and I collected a few more complete heart urchins from the soft cliffs.

Later that day I decided to make use of the next low tide at 8pm (at this time of year in Australia the sun doesn’t set until 9pm!) and visit Allestree beach just out of Portland, closer to Dutton Way. I had read previously that people have collected shark teeth on this beach so I was keen to try my luck here. Finding teeth at this site is dependent on visiting when beach conditions are right (i.e if there is shell grit on the shore as opposed to just sand, because the teeth wash in with the grit from offshore beds as there is no onshore rock outcrops present). When I got to the beach I was disappointed to find that there was almost no shell grit in sight and it looked like I was going to miss out on getting any teeth today. In the end it didn’t matter that it was low tide, as the only small amount of shell grit I eventually located was all situated high up the beach mixed in with large quantities of sand. The shell fragments were all modern, so I didn’t really expect to find fossil teeth amongst them and only half-heartedly continued my search but was then extremely surprised when I spotted my first shark tooth lying in plain sight on the sandy surface. After that it was game-on and I spent the next couple of hours on my hands and knees scouring the shells for more. In the end only two teeth were collected, the initial shark tooth and one rostral tooth from a sawshark, but I was very pleased to have found anything at all considering how little grit was present on the beach. I then decided that I would like to return tomorrow with a sieve so that I could quickly separate the sand from the grit and hopefully get more teeth than by simply looking on the surface. All in all it was certainly not a bad first day of collecting and had gotten me even more excited about the trips that lay ahead!

Pictures of the days finds: 1. Lovenia echinoids 2. Whale bone fragment 3. Rock with various bivalves and other shells (mostly external moulds) 4. Oysters 5. Shark tooth (probably Isurus) 6. Sawshark rostral tooth

1. post-5373-0-21751800-1455322888_thumb.jpg 2. post-5373-0-46752300-1455322917_thumb.jpg 3. post-5373-0-07995000-1455322944_thumb.jpg 4. post-5373-0-75272000-1455322970_thumb.jpg 5. post-5373-0-11064800-1455322996_thumb.jpg 6. post-5373-0-71315600-1455323018_thumb.jpg

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Paleoworld-101

Fossil Collecting Day 2 - 28/12/15 – Yellow Rock and Allestree Beach

The next morning I was dropped off at Yellow Rock, just out of Portland, to look for ice age megafauna fossils along the beach. The bones and teeth come out of a small clay layer in the 1 million year old sandy cliffs, which in the past has produced material from extinct diprotodontids, kangaroos, thylacines and even the marsupial lion Thylacoleo. This was also my first time looking for Australian megafauna fossils. For the first hour or so I observed no trace of any fossils in the cliff but I eventually managed to locate the right layer and found a few small bone fragments embedded within it. These were already too damaged and problematic to collect so I left them be and followed the layer along for as long as I could before it dipped down below beach level and out of view. Along the way I did manage to pick up three broken bone fragments that were already crumbling out of the cliff face but unfortunately nothing else was observed. I was hoping for a tooth but sadly didn’t find any! The bones I collected were saturated with water when I found them and ready to fall apart due to recent rainfall. I have since let them dry and brushed them with a dilute pva solution to give them a bit more strength.

In the evening I then returned to Allestree beach near Dutton Way (where the previous two teeth were collected on the 27th) and this time brought along a sieve to make things easier. My plan started to work beautifully as I quickly found a small shark tooth amongst the shell grit in the sieve no more than 5 minutes after arriving at the beach. Things then seemed to go through periods of rapid productivity followed by periods of nothing as I spent the next 4 hours sieving as much sand on the beach as I could. By sunset I had bested yesterday’s total by collecting 13 shark teeth, though almost all of them are very small and none were complete specimens. Larger teeth can be found here but I attributed their absence to the small size of the shell grit that was on the beach. Bigger teeth wash in with the bigger shelly fragments, which were unfortunately not really present on the beach that day. I was still very glad with how the day had turned out though and in the last 15 minutes before leaving the beach I even managed to pick up a nice piece of fossil whale bone that was simply sticking out of the sand.

Pictures of the days finds: 1-2. Marsupial megafauna bone fragments 3. Heterodontus cainozoicus shark tooth 4. Shark teeth (Carcharias and Isurus?) 5. Sand tiger shark tooth (Carcharias taurus?) 6. Whale bone fragment

1. post-5373-0-38451600-1455323486_thumb.jpg 2. post-5373-0-72800500-1455323510_thumb.jpg 3. post-5373-0-82498200-1455323529_thumb.jpg 4. post-5373-0-31405500-1455323551_thumb.jpg

5. post-5373-0-49094700-1455323573_thumb.jpg 6. post-5373-0-34692100-1455323597_thumb.jpg

Edited by Paleoworld-101

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Fossil Collecting Day 3 - 31/12/15 – Marengo and Bird Rock

My family and I left Portland on the 29th and then headed east to drive the Great Ocean Road, seeing the famous Twelve Apostles geological landmark along the way (though there aren’t twelve anymore!). By the 31st we were in Apollo Bay and I took the opportunity to visit a rock platform at the nearby town of Marengo. This part of Victoria’s southern coast is dominated by the Cretaceous aged Eumeralla Formation, which is quite important for Australian dinosaur palaeontology and has produced a neat assemblage of polar dinosaurs and mammals (which were depicted in the 5th episode of the Walking with Dinosaurs TV series- ‘Spirits of the Ice Forest’). Although I didn’t expect to find any vertebrate fossils here as they are quite rare, I wanted to come and see the formation anyway as well as collect a rock sample or two. It was interesting to imagine that these sediments were laid down 106 million years ago in a dinosaur-dominated rift valley between Australia and Antarctica (which were in the process of separating). Coaly plant fragments were quite abundant in the rocks and I took a couple of specimens as a memento of the polar forests that once sustained the dinosaurs here. I didn’t stay very long though as I was quite sick with a bad cold and a punishing 40 degree heat was not making things any easier. As a side note- bushfires had been burning along this coast ever since Christmas Day, with 116 homes destroyed just north of Apollo Bay. When I was here collecting the fire was still out of control (a large cloud of smoke was visible in the distance). After leaving Apollo Bay we were diverted inland by emergency services to avoid the fire area.

Eventually we made it to the coastal town of Torquay and I was swiftly dropped off at a beach nearby to Bird Rock in Jan Juc. The sediments here are from the Jan Juc Marl (late Oligocene, about 24 million years old). Gastropod and bivalve shells are very common but sharks, marine mammals and birds have also been found here. I observed hundreds of shells within the rocks along the shore and collected some interesting pieces. The preservation has barely altered the shells at all and if you didn’t see them come out of the rock itself it would be easy to write them off as modern, hence why I have tried to collect many of them within a bit of their host sediment. Unfortunately I didn’t make any vertebrate finds today.

Pictures of the days finds: 1. Plant fragments within Cretaceous sandstone 2. Gastropods, tusk shells and bivalves from Bird Rock

1. post-5373-0-04103800-1455323693_thumb.jpg 2. post-5373-0-39722100-1455323715_thumb.jpg

Edited by Paleoworld-101

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Fossil Collecting Day 4 - 1/1/16 – Fossil Beach, Mornington

On the first day of the year my family and I got the car ferry across Port Phillip Bay and drove from Sorrento north to Mornington. Here I collected at a beach that is aptly named ‘Fossil Beach’, and for good reason! The Balcombe Clay cliffs (mid Miocene, 15 million years old) were packed full of all sorts of shells as well as corals. Gastropod diversity at this site is hard to beat and many of them exhibit very intricate spiky and elongate forms that appear to be quite fragile but are nonetheless amazingly well preserved in the soft cliffs. Looking at them ex-situ it is hard to believe they are 15 million years old. Shark teeth can be found here too but I failed to locate any, instead I found a small fragment of cetacean bone (the only vertebrate find). The largest shells at this site are probably the cowrie gastropods (Zoila), and I found a couple of fist-sized examples but chose to leave them in the bedrock.

After I was picked up from Fossil Beach we continued north to the suburb of Beaumaris, where we would be spending the next three nights located right next to one of Victoria’s most important fossil sites.

Pictures of the days finds: 1. Gastropod shells (various unknown species) 2. Small cowrie gastropod shells (Zoila) 3. Cetacean bone fragment 4. Bivalve shells 5. Scleractinian corals (Placotrochus elongatus and Placotrochus deltoideus)

1. post-5373-0-45349400-1455323795_thumb.jpg 2. post-5373-0-69239800-1455323813_thumb.jpg 3. post-5373-0-52485400-1455323835_thumb.jpg 4. post-5373-0-15974900-1455323857_thumb.jpg 5. post-5373-0-37226800-1455323874_thumb.jpg

Edited by Paleoworld-101

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Fossil Collecting Day 5 - 2/1/16 – Beaumaris

My quest for shark teeth had so far been pretty hit and miss, but I’d saved the best two locations for last. Beaumaris is a highly significant site that dates back 4-6 million years and has a diverse fossil assemblage of both invertebrates and vertebrates that come from the Beaumaris Sandstone formation (outcropping in cliffs on either side of the Beaumaris Motor Yacht Squadron). I arrived down at the beach two hours before low tide and chose to search the SE side of the yacht squadron. Collecting here involves nothing more than searching the pebbly shingle in front of the cliffs, though you can also dive for fossils in the shallow waters adjacent to the cliffs because the beds continue offshore. I’d brought my snorkel along with the intention of having a go at diving for fossils but the visibility of the water was poor so I didn’t end up doing so. Nevertheless I was having enough luck on land anyway and quickly found lots of beautiful examples of the heart urchin Lovenia woodsi. These echinoids were by far the most common fossil and in the end I had to tell myself not to keep picking them up as I’d already filled an entire collecting bag with dozens of them. The vertebrate fossils are much less common (which always seems to be the case!) but I did manage to collect three bone fragments from amongst the shingle. The best find I made today was a small and nearly-intact mako shark tooth. I had hoped for more teeth but they were not as abundant as I thought they would be. Overall it was a great day of collecting and I was glad that I’d planned two days at this site in order to do it justice.

Pictures of the days finds: 1-2. Mako shark tooth (Isurus) 3. Bone fragments (left specimen resembles a penguin radius?) 4. Small selection of Lovenia woodsi echinoids (collected across both days at Beaumaris)

1. post-5373-0-94515200-1455323957_thumb.jpg 2. post-5373-0-01865800-1455323981_thumb.jpg 3. post-5373-0-21309900-1455324004_thumb.jpg 4. post-5373-0-77497500-1455324044_thumb.jpg

Edited by Paleoworld-101

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Fossil Collecting Day 6 - 3/1/16 – Beaumaris

On the 3rd I returned to Beaumaris for another fossiling session and immediately went back to the area I was searching the day before on the SE side of the yacht squadron. Once again I tried to do my best at ignoring the many Lovenia fossils lying along the shoreline but ultimately failed and still ended up collecting another 20 or so (only the most complete and best examples). Bone fragments started to turn up again too, the best and most diagnostic of which was a nice fragment of fish jaw with three worn tooth stumps still visible. After a couple of hours I then decided to move over to the NE side of the yacht squadron and continue looking. Once I was here the bone fragments seemingly became more common and I picked up a few more nice (but all fairly small) examples, most likely of cetacean origin. I wanted to keep looking but was forced to leave the beach due to the rising tide, which would have cut me off had I stayed any longer. Beaumaris left a very positive impression and reminded me of my previous collecting trips in England, where the concept of finding great vertebrate fossils by simply walking along a beach is commonplace yet here in Australia it is quite alien. I wish beaches like this existed near Sydney!

Pictures of the days finds: 1-2. Teleost fish jaw fragment 3. Cetacean bone fragments

1. post-5373-0-65205500-1455324125_thumb.jpg 2. post-5373-0-81985700-1455324149_thumb.jpg 3. post-5373-0-27955200-1455324172_thumb.jpg

Edited by Paleoworld-101

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Fossil Collecting Day 7 – 4/1/16 – Geelong

The last location I visited on the trip was a limestone spoil heap near Geelong, about an hour from Melbourne. This site exposes early to middle Miocene aged rocks (23 - 15 million years old). I arrived in the early morning and quickly got to work on the rock pile by looking through the top layers with a scraper. Shark teeth were extremely common and almost straight away I was finding a tooth every couple of minutes or so! For the next 7 hours I gleefully collected over 140 shark teeth, most of which come from the grey nurse shark (Carcharias taurus) and multiple species of extinct mako shark (Isurus desori, Isurus hastalis and Isurus planus). C. megalodon and Notorhyncus cow shark teeth can also be found here but are much harder to come by and I was unsuccessful at locating either one. Nevertheless, collecting so many brilliant shark teeth in one go was definitely the highlight of this Victorian fossil hunting trip and I still couldn’t believe that I was doing this in Australia (where accessible and legally collectable vertebrate fossils are few and far between). I was having such a great time that I didn’t even bother to eat my lunch. After finding so little shark teeth at the previous collecting locations this was a much welcomed change that echoes the Australian stereotype of ‘drought followed by flooding rain’. The preservation of the teeth is also quite nice and resembles those found at the famous Bone Valley site in Florida, which is a favourite of many collectors. In addition to the shark teeth, fossils of echinoids, sponges, crab claws and bivalves were also extremely common. I was picked up from the site by my family around 4pm with a big smile on my face, ready to come back tomorrow and do it all over again!

Pictures of the days finds: 1. All fossils collected across both days at this site (not including the crocodilian scutes) 2. Close up of various shark teeth (mostly Carcharias taurus, found on both days) 3. Mako shark teeth (mostly Isurus desori, collected on both days) 4. Fragment of a large Isurus hastalis tooth 5. Lovenia echinoids 6. Crab claws (collected on both days) 7. Bivalves, other echinoids and echinoid fragments (including spines and plates, collected on both days)

1. post-5373-0-83034500-1455324378_thumb.jpg 2. post-5373-0-12547500-1455324403_thumb.jpg 3. post-5373-0-33720300-1455324429_thumb.jpg 4. post-5373-0-95255800-1455324449_thumb.jpg 5. post-5373-0-73924800-1455324470_thumb.jpg

6. post-5373-0-61309600-1455324490_thumb.jpg 7. post-5373-0-94670800-1455324512_thumb.jpg

Edited by Paleoworld-101

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Fossil Collecting Day 8 - 5/1/16 – Geelong

Today was my last day of fossil collecting on the trip and I returned to the same limestone spoil heap for another great session of shark tooth collecting. Once again I arrived in the early morning and spent the full day (7 hours) sifting and digging through rock fragments in the pile for fossils. My dad also came along too on this day and helped me look for teeth. By 4pm we had together collected over 160 of them, bringing the total from this one locality to over 300 teeth across the two days that I spent here. Once again the majority of teeth came from grey nurse and mako sharks but I also managed to find a nicely serrated Carcharocles tooth towards the end of the day, though sadly it was incomplete. It may be from a young C. megalodon or perhaps an angustidens or chubutensis. Lots more crab claws and other invertebrate specimens were also collected, as well as part of a shark vertebra and some other bone fragments (likely cetacean and fish). Leaving the site at the end of this hunt meant the end of my Victorian collecting trip, but I couldn’t have asked for a better finish than this!

My family and I then began the drive home to Sydney, overnighting in Gundagai along the way and then arriving home about lunchtime on the 6th of January.

Pictures of the days finds: 1. Close up of various shark teeth (mostly Carcharias taurus, collected across both days at this site) 2-3. Carcharocles tooth 4. Tiger shark tooth (Galeocerdo aduncus) 5. Partial shark vertebra and other small bone fragments (cetacean and fish?) 6-7. Sponges (collected across both days)

1. post-5373-0-90811300-1455324616_thumb.jpg 2. post-5373-0-49818600-1455324641_thumb.jpg 3. post-5373-0-75689500-1455324661_thumb.jpg 4. post-5373-0-34268100-1455324683_thumb.jpg 5. post-5373-0-04763400-1455324701_thumb.jpg

6. post-5373-0-64970000-1455324738_thumb.jpg 7. post-5373-0-58162200-1455324758_thumb.jpg

This trip is the best fossil hunting experience I have had in Australia thus far and showed me that I don’t always need to travel half way around the world to find great vertebrate fossils. I certainly hope that I can do more trips like this in the future!

Thanks for checking out this trip report, I hope you’ve enjoyed it!

Edited by Paleoworld-101

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Auspex

Man-oh-man! A week-long fossil road trip in Oz! My heart is pounding!

Good on ya' :)

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Coelacanth

Nice finds!

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Down under fossil hunter

Awesome stuff mate!

I was going to hit up Beaumaris later this year as I am working only 30 min away for a few days.

I was wondering how plentiful the fossils were.

Wow that spot in Geelong looks amazing! I will have to get out there sometime this year.

Super interesting post.

Thank you

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Jesuslover340

Wow....loved reading this! Excellent report! Have me droolin' over those teeth!:P I hope to see more!

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Ash

Did better than JesusLover340 and I! We got rained out.

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PaleoWilliam

Nice finds!

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Jesuslover340

post-11650-0-09122100-1455333618_thumb.jpg

^^^Carcharodon angustidens from the Batesford Limestone Quarry :)

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Carcharodontosaurus

Sounds like you had an awesome 8 days. Your collection of self-found fossils must be huge now.

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jcbshark

Wow, those are some awesome finds! Congrats :D Those teeth you found look like they're straight outta bone valley, love those colors :)

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CBOB

What a great post! And what great additions to your collection! I've been itching to get out for some hunting but weather is just not letting it happen yet. Nothing better than a good fossil hunting trip!

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Paleoworld-101

Thanks for the kind comments everyone!

@DUFH- I was not sure how common the fossils would be at Beaumaris either but was pleasantly surprised. There were other people looking on the same bit of coastline both days that i was there, so local collectors are there pretty regularly but there's still stuff to find. You can easily find the echinoids and small bone fragments aren't too hard to come by either. You might get more if you dive though as less people probably do that. PM me closer to when you're going for more details if you like.

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Down under fossil hunter

Thanks for the kind comments everyone!

@DUFH- I was not sure how common the fossils would be at Beaumaris either but was pleasantly surprised. There were other people looking on the same bit of coastline both days that i was there, so local collectors are there pretty regularly but there's still stuff to find. You can easily find the echinoids and small bone fragments aren't too hard to come by either. You might get more if you dive though as less people probably do that. PM me closer to when you're going for more details if you like.

Will definitely do that.

Showed my 4yo your finds and he lost it... went and got his geo-pick and bag and was asking when could we leave??? lol

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Coco

Hi,

Nice hunts. I love your shells on the 1st pic in #4... 0033.gif

Coco

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Paleoworld-101

Will definitely do that.

Showed my 4yo your finds and he lost it... went and got his geo-pick and bag and was asking when could we leave??? lol

Haha that's excellent! Glad he takes after his father

Hi,

Nice hunts. I love your shells on the 1st pic in #4... 0033.gif

Coco

Thanks, i'm not even a big invert person, but i couldn't help but pick up every little gastropod i saw. They really are beautiful.

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lcordova

Real nice!

I specially like the echinoids!

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Jesuslover340

Nect time you go, take us with you! ;) (video)

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Manticocerasman

Great report Paleo ;)

And an impressive haul of shark teeth.

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